The Essential School Board Book

The Essential School Board Book Better Governance in the Age of Accountability

Nancy Walser, foreword by Richard F. Elmore
cloth, 168 Pages
Pub. Date: October 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-934742-33-4
Price: $49.95

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Pub. Date: October 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-048-5
paper, 168 Pages
Pub. Date: October 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-934742-32-7
Price: $28.00

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2009 Notable Education Book, American School Board Journal

The Essential School Board Book
highlights effective practices that are common to high-functioning boards around the country—boards that are working successfully with their superintendents and communities to improve teaching and learning.


The Essential School Board Book is one of the best books ever written on school board governance. Every board president and superintendent should make it required reading for the entire board-superintendent team. It is well researched and practical. The advice is sound and comes from real experience and practice that we can all learn from. What’s more, the strategies to increase student achievement and learning work. Walser has done a great service by featuring effective policy and practice for good school governance. This book will prove indispensable to true district transformation. — Anne L. Bryant, executive director, National School Boards Association

In this engaging, practical guide, Walser uses case studies of successful school boards to highlight effective governance practices. She offers real-world solutions that will inspire school board members as well as superintendents, principals, and other leaders striving to build successful partnerships in support of academic achievement. — Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, American Association of School Administrators

After decades of virtual silence on the importance of school boards, Nancy Walser’s book contributes to the recent rediscovery of the influence of American school boards on school reform efforts. Her book stands alone in revealing the inner workings of a diverse group of successful school boards, providing practical and reliable guidance to board members and superintendents. — Thomas L. Alsbury, associate professor and program coordinator, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, North Carolina State University

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About the Author

Nancy Walser is assistant editor of the award-winning Harvard Education Letter. For more than ten years, she worked as a newspaper journalist, covering education and other beats for many local, regional, and national publications, including States News Service in Washington, D.C., the Quincy Patriot-Ledger, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times. She also authored and published two editions of the Parent’s Guide to Cambridge Schools.

In 1999, she was elected to the Cambridge School Committee, and served as a member of the board until 2007. During that time, she also served as secretary-treasurer and vice president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), attending many annual and regional conferences sponsored by the National School Boards Association and MASC.

Walser has worked at the Harvard Education Publishing Group (HEPG) since July 2006. She coauthored two recent books in the HEPG’s Spotlight series; Spotlight on Leadership and School Change (Harvard Education Press, 2007) and Spotlight on Student Engagement, Motivation, and Achievement (Harvard Education Press, 2009). Her interview with Ronald Ferguson of the Harvard Achievement Gap Initiative and her story, “R Is for Resilience,” were both finalists for Distinguished Achievement Awards in 2008 from the Association of Educational Publishers.

Walser holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently a master’s candidate in the Education Policy and Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She and her husband, Robert Buderi, live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where their two children attend the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

Harvard Education Letter article Secrets of High-Functioning School Boards

Table of Contents (PDF)

Transcript from Online chat with Nancy Walser

E-book available through online booksellers

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